The popular book 'Atomic Habits‘ by James Clear focuses on the difference between goals and changing your habits. Goals can be something we work towards, achieve and conquer but if we focus more attention on changing habits in the process of trying to achieve a goal, we create ongoing change that helps us achieve more goals overall (in turn, maintaining our levels of happiness and motivation).
I was noting down a few goals for 2022 such as 'Save X amount of money' and 'Get X papers published', and thought to myself: what happens when I achieve these things? In 2021, I reached some great milestones, and I tend to feel happy for a while but after the high is over, I can feel lost and even demotivated... Instead of writing arbitrary goals, it actually makes more sense to focus on creating a new habit around spending & saving my money or lifelong learning, so I can achieve these goals several times over, and not just in 2022 but in years to come.
So, here are 22 habits I'm pledging to either build or change in 2022.
1. Clarify my vision & review regularly
I like the idea that our vision for ourselves (or an organisation) is comprised of a few key elements: our purpose, a picture of our future, and our core values. Our purpose is our why, e.g., for me, at a very basic level, it's making a difference and adding value wherever I can. The second element is picturing our future i.e., where I'm going, and what I want to achieve. What does this look like? (Cue the mood boards) The third element — core values — are the principles that shape our behaviour and direct our actions. Examples of values I want to continue to uphold are self-discipline and integrity.
I have never really sat down and envisioned my life but the start of this year prompted me to do so. I use Notion and was given an amazing 'My dream life' journal from Paperchase. I also want to review my vision regularly so I remember my why. We are dynamic beings who constantly change so I want to make sure this is reflected in my goals.
2. Reduce how much productivity content I consume
Too much of anything can be a bad thing. Recently, I've realised that listening or reading too much productivity or motivation-related content makes me feel like I'm never doing enough and there's a new method I have to try, or planner I have to buy, or an achievement / milestone I have to reach... More often than not, these are things I do not even want for myself! An overload of this content actually sets me back a few steps instead of pushing me forward to pursue my own dreams and goals. I am reducing my productivity content consumption to a couple of times a week at most, only to get the dose of motivation I need to keep going. Execution > Planning.
3. More acceptance, fewer expectations
I have had high expectations for as long as I can remember – it's often instilled in us by our parents and teachers: to set goals and strive toward them, to never settle, to never let yourself down by not doing your best. I didn’t see a problem with this, and I still don’t necessarily...
However, although high expectations can be great in theory, they can also make your life more difficult and in turn, more unhappy. I've found it hard to accept when something or someone doesn't meet my expectations and sometimes even judged them... harshly. Acceptance, on the other hand, involves tolerance, endurance, giving, and taking. I won't be abandoning my non-negotiables or tolerating negative treatment (it's important to have bottom lines and recognise your worth) but in the context of relationships (from friends to family to romantic interests), I have realised my expections will be challenged and it's a choice to either accept someone for who they are and: 1) adjust accordingly, or 2) leave.
4. Social media breaks
You have to take all the good that you can get from social media and then know when to put your device down. Mindless scrolling and overloading yourself with meaningless content wastes time and distracts you from where you're headed. I'll be taking more breaks to focus on real life.
5. Stop using my phone before bed & in the morning
I spend a good hour on my phone before bed and when I wake up in the morning - precious hours wasted at the most important times of the day! Although I have turned notifications off, I find it hard to stick to time limits on my apps. The dopamine spike is hard to fight. I plan to gradually reduce (as with anything addictive) my time on my phone by setting 30 mins downtime first thing in the morning and before bed (which you can set on your iPhone by using 'Sleep' in the Focus area). Hopefully, I'll increase that to up to 2 hours by the end of the year.
6. Eat less meat
I want to make a conscious effort to incorporate more plant-based products into my diet. The climate and health benefits are worth it!
7. Move my body daily
I tend to put a lot of time and energy into my other goals and let my fitness ones fall by the wayside (probably because they were usually based on aesthetics). This year I'm trying not to let that happen and I’m basing my fitness goals around being and feeling healthier. Moving my body every day is the first step. I’ve signed up for 'online gym' and I'll be following these workouts for 3 months (I've always struggled with not knowing what to do to reach my health goals). l'll be gradually increasing my calorie-burning goal each month (and competing with friends using Apple Watch).
8. Make better fashion choices (slow fashion)
I’m tired of ever-changing trends and this year I didn’t even buy many clothes. I’ve sold a bunch of old items on Depop and will be shopping on there more often. I'll be thinking about what I buy and if I really need it and where possible, opt for brands that do not mass produce.
9. Start therapy
Therapy has been something I've been wanting to start for a while but this year I think it's time to prioritise being able to talk about my thoughts and feelings to an objective person who knows nothing about me. I'll be trying to find the right therapist for me by the end of January: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk
10. Find a method of reflection that works for me
I have struggled with journaling (a popular method) so I want to find another way of reflecting on my day. I don't plan to attend therapy daily so I need a way of dumping my thoughts in one place. I might start with voice memos or even video recordings when I feel like it. (Drop any other suggestions in the comments)
11. Stop living life on autopilot
The difference between routines and living life on autopilot is intention. Surprisingly, I often go about my day with a lack of intention, adding and taking away tasks, jumping from one to the other, falling behind, and having to reschedule due to overbooking myself. It’s tiring because sometimes I don’t even know what I’m busy with. I need to have more intention in my action. I'm trying to make sure that tasks on my to-do lists ALL have intention behind them and are written in order of priority.
12. Understand what is a priority and what isn't
Following on from number 11, I am notorious for changing the order of priority of tasks on my to-do list and struggle with assigning priority to my overall goals and aspirations. How do I prioritise when I think everything is important?
My biggest downfall is trying to manage multiple COMPETING priorities (e.g. similar deadlines, similar amount of time, and effort). One tactic I want to adopt for staying focused on one important task at a time is identifying my key distractions – concurrent tasks and ad-hoc requests from emails or messages that throw me off track - and actively avoiding them throughout the day. I am going to start fully prioritising one task and avoid any work, emails, messages, or preparation related to the other until complete.
I also need to keep in mind what I am really working towards so I can pick out the tasks most pertinent to those future outcomes. I have started deconstructing my yearly goals into monthly to-do lists, which can help me decide my weekly tasks and therefore, daily priorities. We'll see how this goes...
13. Listen to understand not react or advise
It's easy for you to want to advise someone on what they should do next or give your opinion on a situation you feel strongly about but sometimes people are coming to you for a space to vent. And that's it. I'm going to be leaning more towards holding my tongue and instead, offering words of comfort and trying to understand.
14. Join the 6am club
I'm a morning person which means I work better earlier and my productivity is at its highest. Waking up earlier than 9am has been difficult for me recently (Christmas break ruined my routine), but I want to be able to 'unlock' a few more hours in the day and maximise how much I get done. Alarm has been set for 8am... then 7... then hoping for 6 soon.
15. Set boundaries and be firm - even if it makes you seem like the villain
Still working on this. A quote that really resonated with me recently was: 'Is your schedule filled up with your agenda or other people's?' This happens to me A LOT and I am getting better at saying no or not prioritising other people's needs above my own. Understandably, people won't like it. But as long as I am happier and healthier, I will be at peace with my decision.
16. Take better care of me
Similar to number 15. I'm committing to doing things I actually want to do, enjoy, or will learn from this year. If I don't, it's an automatic no. I want to take better care of my mind and body and regularly check in with myself.
17. Creating systems that allow me to work smarter
I want to create a system that I stick to with minor deviations to ensure I'm working at my top form. E.g., I'm most productive in the mornings up until around 3pm so I am now avoiding scheduling important tasks or meetings after then.
18. Check my emails less
Every time I open my inbox, there will be another task to add to my to-do list or another request that diverts my attention from my current work. I'm making a conscious effort to use 'out of office' automated responses and avoid checking my inbox when I'm working on something.
19. Automate tasks where possible
This has been a life-saver for multi-step tasks. An example was when I used to schedule my meetings by first, creating a poll with my availability, then sending this in an email to people, then manually putting their bookings into my calendar, then creating zoom links. Not only was it a waste of time, but it also introduced many mistakes. I now use Calendly which integrates my calendar, automatically shows my availability, creates 1hr Zoom meeting links, sends them to myself and the recipient, and inputs the meetings into my calendar. All automatically. Hands- and stress-free!
I've also used helpful tools such as email templates, Instagram quick replies, and email auto-archive. So much time gets freed up and automation has allowed me to be more organised.
20. Switch to pen and paper when necessary
It's easy to get caught up in tools and apps for managing our workload. I tend to go back to basics with pen and paper and make a simple list of what I need to work on which limits possible distractions (like notifications) popping up. It also helps me learn information from online lectures, courses, videos, and meetings a lot quicker because I am actively doing something on the other side of the screen.
21. Keep better tabs on my finances
I've never actually calculated exactly what I spend, save or earn monthly or even annually. I work on rough estimates. However, as I get closer to finishing medical school, I want to make sure I have a really solid grasp of my finances down to the penny. I have a few financial goals I want to hit this year and the only way to meet them is by knowing my finances inside and out. Not just at a glance. I'll be tracking my finances this year with a budget sheet (lots of templates can be found on the Internet) and hopefully get a better idea of what I'm doing well and what I need to improve.
22. Get better at letting go
My final habit in 2022 is going to be getting better at letting go. Whether this refers to people, hobbies, or a business - when something has run its course, I want to get better at recognising this and ending it, to make way for the next great thing.
What are some habits you're hoping to start in 2022 and how do you plan to incorporate them?